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New TLD Application Tip: Launch Strategies

Almost exactly nine years ago, the .INFO domain first started accepting registrations. This was an historic event as it was the first time a new generic top-level domain (TLD) was launched to an existing domain marketplace and, in fact, was the first new TLD to be added since .com. We’ve seen (and provided technology to power) many other TLD launches since then, with many business models. As you seek to introduce your own new TLD however, you should carefully evaluate the different launch models that have been tried before and determine which one will work best for your specific TLD.

Trademark Protection

All new TLDs will require some form of trademark protection to ensure that Intellectual Property (IP) holders’ rights can be protected prior to live, public registrations. Afilias has implemented a number of different types of trademark protection plans from pre-registration without trademark verification, to those with extensive application and verification processes. We’ve seen the best success with a very focused trademark pre-registration period that has clear trademark parameters and works with a known trademark verification agent to weed through all of the submissions. We also recommend that all registries lock pre-registered trademark domains for up to 60 days following their registration award to allow for any potential UDRP claims that IP owners may wish to file.


Landrush will be the most critical time for your TLD as it places the heaviest load on the technical registry system. We’ve seen in excess of 300,000 names coming in through initial landrush opening minutes, so you want to be very careful about who you select as your registry partner. You should make sure that their registry has been tested to withstand a significant landrush load.

In addition, you will have to make some policy decisions about how you want landrush to work. In almost all cases you should avoid pre-registration fees with a “chance” at getting your name. These can be viewed as lottery-based systems that can subject your organization to new legal restrictions. We highly recommend that clients not charge for applications, but only for awarded names.

Regardless, you need to decide if you will open the floodgates all at once, or if you want to have multiple, specialized application periods (see below) in advance of the “public” opening.

Premium Names and Auctions

In recent years TLDs like .info, .mobi, .asia and .me have seen good success by reserving premium names, which are highly desirable generic or category terms. In .info’s case, we reserved a number of country domains and have awarded them for use by their respective governments (some great examples are spain.info and germany.info). Other TLDs have used reserved name lists for auctions following landrush.

Premium or other reserved names can fit well into your new TLD’s strategy, particularly if you will be representing a certain category or key community where they will present more value. An auction approach helps to raise the price, and therefore perceived value of these names, and can help put your registry on a sound financial footing more quickly.


If auctions are not to your taste, other domains have also seen success by simply launching a period where interested users can respond to a “request for proposal” with a business and launch plan for a highly desirable name. As a registry, you can offer additional promotion, partnerships or advertising to help assist with the launch of these sites, which can also act as great brand ambassadors for your fledgling TLD.

Each new TLD will have its own priorities. However, at the end of the day, you need a plan that will get lots of names into your target market quickly, generate awareness of your TLD (so it will be viewed as a legitimate place to visit by Internet users), and demonstrate actual use in the market (i.e. real sites and e-mail). Your launch plan is critical to establishing these building blocks quickly. If you are not a TLD expert, consider teaming up with someone who has been there before.

By Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Afilias

An expert on new TLD development, LaPlante is an original member of the management team at Afilias and has over 30 years’ senior marketing experience building brands at companies like Procter and Gamble, Citibank, and McGraw-Hill.

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Not actually... Daniel R. Tobias  –  Jul 26, 2010 8:09 PM

It’s a misstatement to say that .info is the “first new TLD since .com”.  Actually (in addition to the many country code TLDs that were added in the interim), the .int domain for international treaty organizations was added during the time span between .com and .info.  Also, .com was introduced simultaneously with .net, .org, .edu, .gov, and .mil, while .info was introduced simultaneously with .biz, .name, .coop, .pro, .aero, and .museum.

Actually, yes... Jothan Frakes  –  Jul 27, 2010 1:18 AM

I think you make Roland’s point.  You are technically right, and sure, he didn’t state the subtlety of ‘TLDs that you had to apply for and go through a formal applicant round process’. 

For all intents and purposes this upcoming round resembles more of the type you apply for vs whatever manner in which .INT was added.  Sure, the 2001 round was a clowncar, but there’s lots of lessons learned by those applicants.

Still, the current round of new TLDs is not the first round of applications, but rather the third round where applications were tendered for potential applicants.

In the ‘first’ round, basing the success upon the volume of registrations, .INFO led the pack, and that’s where Afilias has the right to speak from experience, because they operate that registry.

Given their experiences in the second round with .MOBI and .ASIA there are many lessons learned that would benefit a potential applicant in this round, so this article is actually worth reading if a person is a potential applicant.

I’d hate for someone to gloss over some good and potentially beneficial advice over splitting hairs about what ‘first’ means.  I took it to mean first application round, but I get that your take is also an entirely reasonable take.

Roland,All the tips that you mention here Constantine Roussos  –  Jul 28, 2010 2:36 PM


All the tips that you mention here are tactics that serve a company’s overall strategy. I would not lump them under the word “strategies.” The word strategy is a misused word by most people because there can only be one overall strategy and mission which is supported by purpose-driven tactics that serve the ultimate goal. The danger is when you do not really have a strategy and you are launching random tactics with no understanding of future implications.

A question new TLD applicants should ask themselves is whether the tactics employed serve what you are trying to accomplish and the big picture that forms the strategy. I think it is critical that all new TLD applicants have a strategy that is aligned with what they are trying to accomplish in the long run and employ the neccessary tactics that serve this purpose.

Mere auctioning out domains is a short term solution even though it does help bring some monies into the company initially. With a few hundred TLDs expected to launch I expect proceeds from auctions to decrease because of lower demand given hundreds of alternative options (unless the TLD is highly specialized). I look at the .mobi auction as an example. mTLD had the luxury to have limited competition given then fact that only a few new TLDs were being launched at the time. Given the “mobile” hype at the time, the auction prices sky-rocketed starting with the symbolic sale of flowers.mobi for $200k to domainer Rick Schwartz. I was amongst one of those auction buyers for music.mobi and entertainment.mobi. However later auction rounds showed that demand was decreasing, because there was no value added beyond the TLD name alone. The mere fact that .mobi still has thousands of premium names reserved is a clear indication for this. I think mTLD/dotMobi made the right move to build innovative products to complement .mobi domains but it took them a bit too long to launch them and offer them to .mobi clients. I think the move was the right one: creating value for the TLD domain and I encourage Afilias to continue working on bringing innovative solutions for the .mobi brand. Not sure what Afilias plans are for the premium .mobi domains but it is a good problem to have.

My biggest fear for new TLD applicants is the concept that a TLD alone can be successful without creating any value added beyond the novelty domain name identifier. A question that new TLD owners should ask themselves is how do I create additional value beyond just the mere name identifier and be able to be innovative beyond the traditional business models that all the past TLD launches have adopted. With hundreds of TLDs expected to launch in close launch date proximity and fierce competition, the most successful ones will be the TLDs that differentiate themselves better and increase consumers willingness to buy by expanding the value proposition.

Great tips Roland. It is not accidental that Afilias is one of the most respected registries out there.

Constantine Roussos

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